Crafty Pint / 26.09.12
They’ve already hosted home brewing legends from the States, held a series of sold out, high quality dinners, and helped set hundreds of Aussie home brewers on the path to brewing better beer. But for the people behind the Australian National Homebrewing Conference, that simply isn’t enough. Not nearly enough. So, as they return for their third run, expect more of everything: brewing legends, seminars, entertainment, new beers… So much more, in fact, that it’s little wonder this year’s conference is tagged “Tripel Strength”.
Among the big names coming to Melbourne at the end of October are Beer Here’s Christian Skovdal Andersen, who called in to Australia earlier in the year and left behind a few collaborative beers to tide beer lovers over, Stu McKinlay of Kiwi brewers The Yeastie Boys, Matt Brynildson of top US brewery Firestone Walker, and rising home brewing guru Kai Troester. Add in John Palmer, author of How To Brew, Brendan Varis, from reigning Champion Large Australian Brewery Feral, talking about his barrel-aging program, Chris Badenoch from Josie Bones talking sausages, plus the return of the System Wars home brew systems face-off, and talks ranging from the uber-technical to the lighthearted and you’ve got one heck of a busy weekend lined up. This year, the popular System Wars smack down is being tied together with popular home-brewing podcast Basic Brewing Radio and Brew Your Own magazine as a part of their ongoing series of collaborative experiments.
“The screaming success of the first two conferences gave us the confidence and resources to go for broke with ANHC 3 and the result is essentially a case of bigger, better and more,” says conference co-founder Andy Davison. “Each conference, the ANHC pays to bring in keynote presenters from the international home-brewing scene, [and] this year we’ve doubled the quota from two to four international keynotes. Past conferences have tended to look mostly to the massive home-brewing scene in the US for presenters; this year we made an effort to deliberately target presenters from other parts of the world, too.
“A shift from strictly "home-brewing” personalities has allowed us to dip into the red hot brewing scenes of Scandinavia and New Zealand with Christian Skovdal Anderson from Beer Here and Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys, whilst still tapping the incredible pool of US talent for the likes of Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson and ascendant home-brewing guru Kai Troester.
“The success of the previous conferences has also attracted an increased representation from presenters who have a commercial interest to represent. We’ll see conference favourites Chris White of Whitelabs Yeast, John Herskovits from 5 Star Chemicals and Jess Caudill of Wyeast back for another round, with return visits from past conference presenter John Palmer and a special video link up with home-brewing god and Heretic Brewing owner/brewer Jamil Zainasheff (pictured above right at the last conference).”
Of course, it’s all well and good bringing big names to town and lining up a jam-packed schedule of top class events. But a conference that is, essentially, about beer isn’t going to be much of a conference without beer at its heart. Thankfully, this is more than covered. According to the organisers, a number of their guests are bringing beer, some that isn’t available in Australia and that may never be available in Australia again, as well as exclusive beers that are being brewed especially for the conference by brewers big and small. In total, there will be 43 craft beers on tap throughout the weekend.
With such a busy program for ANHC 3, it has been split into two streams. That means two big rooms full of brewing information running all weekend. Sessions range from professional sensory education and panel discussions about formal brewing education to sessions on sausage making and meat smoking plus an introduction to Sake and the world of Japanese brewing with Sake Master Andre Bishop (Kumo Izakaya, Izakaya Chuji, Nihonshu Sake and Sochu Bar).
“Feedback from the previous conferences told us that we might just be getting a little too technical,” says Andy. “Not all home-brewers are so far gone that they only want presentations on the biochemical minutia of the brewing process. Some just want a bit of solid and basic advice on how to improve their brewing or take the next step. So we have set aside our parallel room on Saturday afternoon for our "Beginners Sessions”. Not just for beginners, the sessions are a focused and practical set of sessions from both local brewing wise men and a selection of our international luminaries on how to improve your beer. Available as separate package, the Beginners Sessions are a conference within the conference for the people who just want to boost the pace of their progress down the brewing path a little."
The conference offers plenty of opportunities for people to let their hair down too. Responding to feedback from the last conference in 2010 – in particular that attendees really enjoyed the Beer Matching dinner and Club Night – they have ditched one of the formal dinners in order to make more room for more of “the other stuff”.
“Keeping the vital bits from our Awards dinner and amping up the good bits from the Beer Matching dinner is the new bigger, better and longer Gala Awards Dinner at Maia (Central Pier, Docklands),” he says. “With the presentation of the AABC awards, dinner speakers, entertainment and six – count ‘em six! – beers brewed by some of Australia’s leading home-brewers and matched to food specially prepared by the team at Maia – it’s going to be a night not just for home-brewers, but beer lovers, food lovers and everyone else too.
“The subtraction of one dinner, of course, leaves the Saturday night completely free for the fabulousness of Club Night. This time fully catered and open for both regular conference delegates and their friends to attend, this year we can share the love a little further. If you were there at ANHC 2, you know what we mean, if you weren’t, you missed out. It went off with a bang last time, this time it might go super nova.”
The final new element of this year’s conference is the introduction of an Industry Day. Timed to coincide with the Victorian Microbreweries Showcase at Fed Square, it is a day for “enhancing skills and knowledge, and firing up the imagination and inspiration of our wonderful local brewers”. It takes place during the day on October 25 (the second day of the Showcase – please note the date as the article originally stated October 26) and finishes before the Showcase kicks off. Conference attendees get a discounted entry to the Showcase, where ANHC will have a stall where they will be pouring home brew to entice punters over to the dark side of making beer for themselves.
All in all, their claim of “Bigger. Better. More” seems well placed. To find out more about attending and the various ticket packages on offer, head to the conference website here.